“We should always be clear that animal exploitation is wrong because it involves speciesism. And speciesism is wrong because, like racism, sexism, homophobia and all other forms of human discrimination, speciesism involves violence inflicted on members of the moral community where that infliction of violence cannot be morally justified.” - Gary L. Francione
As a country, it wouldn’t ring untrue to classify ourselves as a decidedly self-possessed bunch. It’s a dog-eat-dog world and most people are in it for their own survival. The fact that we happen to have been blessed with some of the most incredible flora and fauna is often cast off as unimportant in our quest for ‘economic progress’ and other ludicrously unimportant goals especially when put in the larger context of our environment. And unfortunately for us, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hardly on the right side of this debate. Whether it’s the cutting of forests without tribal consent or land appropriation across the country by private companies with government support, his entire agenda is in the name of ‘development,’ but if we continue down this route for four more years, you can be assured their won’t be patriotism or a legacy left to protect. Perhaps worst of all, we’ll be destroying species who have no control over their own fate thanks to our relentless technological progress. Time for a reality check.
In India, we have a noted 410 species of mammals, of which a shocking 89 have been listed as threatened, or nearing extinction. The ‘Save the Tiger’ campaign has managed to shed some light on the situation from deforestation and poaching to other criminally devastating activities being committed by human beings but apparently just awareness is not nearly as powerful as our need for greed. And if we can be so callous towards our ‘National Animal’ we’re forced to beg the ubiquitous question--what chance do the others stand?
However, this is by no means the first time a species in our nation has faced the unthinkable idea of extinction. We rounded up the research to provide you with a list of species that once roamed free through our country, only to be eventually wiped off the face of our planet entirely. Our generation missed out on the opportunity to witness these amazing creatures at all but perhaps the memory of them might invoke in us a need to protect what we still have for the next. Moreover, we got illustrator and designer Kavita Brahma to give visual wings to the stunning creatures.
Now isn’t the time to lose hope either. Just a few months ago, we reported the 30% spike in Tiger populations in the country thanks to proper conservation efforts that have become a benchmark for the rest of the world. So start giving a shit. Now is as good a time as any.
Became Extinct: Approximately 8,000 years ago
The Sivatherium (meaning Shiva’s beast) was a girrafid that roamed throughout the Indian subcontinent. Standing close to 10 feet tall, this herbivore weighed as much as 500 kgs. It had two pairs of horns: One on its head, and one above its eyes. Sadly, it was hunted to extinction by early humans, leaving us with only a few cave paintings and its bones. And this was before massive population burden, poaching and gargantuan consumerist attitudes came into play.
Became Extinct: 1627
Ancestors of the domestic cattle, the Aurochs were considerably larger, and inhabited most of Europe and Asia. Although wild, they were eventually domesticated to fulfil various human needs. By the 13th Century, their numbers reduced drastically due to hunting, forceful domestication, and destruction of habitat due to the development of framing. Although a ban was imposed on hunting the Aurochs, their numbers kept reducing, and the last known Auroch died due to natural causes in Jaktorow, Poland.
III. Indian Javan Rhinoceros
Became Extinct: Before 1925
Once among the most widespread mammals in the Asia, this unique rhinoceros died out mainly due to poaching, trophy hunting, and loss of habitat. The absurd fact is that the males barely had a horn, and the females didn’t have a horn at all. Yet, their tiny, miniscule horns were sold for as much as $30,000 in the Chinese markets because they claim it contains healing powers. That, coupled with trophy hunting due to the presence of Europeans, led to the premature death of most of the rhinos. Although it is said that about 40 of these still exist in some part of Vietnam, they are completely extinct in India.
IV. Northern Sumatran Rhinoceros
Became Extinct: Before 1900
Also known as the Hairy Rhinoceros, the Sumatran Rhinoceros was the smallest rhinoceros there was, although it was still pretty large. Again, these Rhinos were killed for the same reasons; their horns sold for a large amount in the Chinese market, and their hide made for good armour. Extinct in India today, it is claimed that some of these Rhinos still exist in parts of the Malay region, although the numbers are said to be less than 100.
V. Malabar Civet
Became Extinct: 1987
A spotted, grey viverrid, the Malabar Civet lived in the western ghats of India. They were about two and a half feet long, and weighed a mere 7 kilos. The reason for their possible extinction is said to be the constant rearing of these animals to obtain civetone, an extract from their scent glands that was used both in Ayurvedic medicines and as an aromatic. In one last effort, camera tapping was used between April 2006 to March 2007, and no photographic evidence was found in a total of 1,084 camera trap nights.
VI. Himalayan Quail
Allegedly Became Extinct: In 1876
A medium-sized quail belonging to the pheasant family, the Himalayan Quail has not been spotted in over 150 years. It lived mostly in what is today’s Uttrakhand. Although it hasn’t been formally declared extinct, it is widely feared to be. Though it would be nice to hope that they found a way to avoid detection by the greediest species on the planet.
VII. Pink – headed Duck
Became Extinct: Approximately speaking, the 1950s
A huge diving duck, it was once found at large in the Gangetic plains of India. It was always considered to be a rare species, and was possibly completely wiped out due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction. It has not been spotted in almost 80 years and hence, is widely considered to be extinct.
VIII. Colossochelys Atlas
Became Extinct: Over 10,000 years ago
An extinct species of turtles, this huge reptile was widely found in western India and Pakistan. It was a behemoth to say the least: about 10 feet in length and weighing in at about 4,000 kilos in weight. It lived thousands of years ago however, and therefore the actual reasons for extinction are unknown.
[Note to readers--currently, some of India’s most endangered wild animal species include the tigers, red pandas, gharials, Indian wild asses, Indian wild dogs, Nilgiri Langurs, Indian Black Bucks, Indian bustards, and Indian dolphins among other critically endangered species.]
Art: Kavita Brahma
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